The Majolica Museum: pieces of history in the heart of Palermo

In the heart of the Kalsa, Palermo’s ancient Arab quarter, there is a historic 16th-century building, the Palazzo Torre Pirajno. Located on the main floor is the Museo delle Maioliche-Stanze al Genio, a museum of majolica pottery. It houses almost 5000 examples of hand-painted majolica tiles, one of the largest collections in Europe. The museum’s name is inspired by the nearby Fontana del Genio [Fountain of the Genius] of Palermo, the ancient patron saint of the city.

The collection is divided between the eight rooms of the house-museum, according to their era and geographical provenance. The tiles of various colors and shapes, from geometric and plant motifs to human figures, were mainly produced in Campania and Sicily between the 15th and 19th centuries. During the time of their production, they were used almost exclusively as flooring in the homes of the aristocracy, religious communities and the affluent middle class.

The palace, originally owned by the Fernandez di Valdes family, was later owned by the Torre-Benso family in the 18th century, and then by the Pirajno family. It has been completely renovated over the years, and restored to its former 18th-century splendor. With this intervention, the original decorations – hidden by thick layers of plaster – and most of the flooring, have all come to light. The collection of majolica tiles began to take shape quite recently when Pio Mellina, who had been collecting tiles from the age of eleven, decided, in 2008, to open the collection to the public. The Stanze al Genio Cultural Association was founded to support the conservation and viewing of the collection and make the public aware of the historical and cultural heritage acquired over time. The collection continues to grow, and each majolica tile tells the story of an era, a culture and a piece of Italian history. It is now accessible to collectors, enthusiasts, curious people and anyone interested in discovering the rich and multi-layered history of majolica.

All photos: Museo delle Maioliche – Stanze al Genio

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Historical residencesItinerariesMuseumsPalermoSicily